Japan disaster reopens atomic power debate

PP qualifies pro-nuclear stance as government stands by existing policy

The debate over the safety of nuclear power has reignited in Spain, and throughout Europe, in light of the nuclear accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant damaged by Friday's earthquake and tsunami.

Industry Minister Miguel Sebastián reassured the Spanish population of the safety of the country's eight power plants, which accounted for over 18 percent of Spain's energy in 2008, while Socialist Secretary Marcelino Iglesias said the party's nuclear policy was unchanged.

As a second explosion rocked the Fukushima reactor on Monday, the opposition Popular Party stuck to its line in favor of extending the lives of Spain's nuclear plants while toning down its levels of enthusiasm. Spokesperson María Dolores de Cospedal said the PP support the idea of an "energy mix," that includes "clean renewables, others like gas and petrol, and nuclear energy- always with a focus on safety."

Juan López de Uralde, leader of the green group Equo, said events in Japan showed the true "vulnerability and danger" of nuclear power. He said the damaged Japanese reactor is similar to the plant in Garoña (Burgos), which is due to close in 2013. But the mayors of villages that are candidates to host a nuclear waste storage facility were unmoved by events. "The unit is built to withstand all manner of accidents and there is no risk of an earthquake on the scale of Japan's," said Ascó mayor Rafael Vidal.

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